My kids go pretty much everywhere with me. Really. We run errands together, go grocery shopping, out to eat, go to the doctor, whatever needs to be done we do it all together. Some people think that is crazy, but that's the way we do things. My wonderful husband works 5 days a week from 7-5. Since we homeschool, the kids are home with me all day so when errands need to be run or we have to go to appointments we all get to go. One of the most frequent comments I get when I am out and about with my bigger than average family is something like this, " I can't believe you take all of your kids grocery shopping (or out to eat, to the doctor, movies, etc...) I only have 2 and I don't even bring them with me!" Or, "I could never take my kids with me. They would never behave!"
Different things work for different families, but I always wonder, how can you expect a child to know how to behave in a given situation if they never have the opportunity to learn how to be in that situation? Did that make sense? What I mean is, a child that is not taught to behave by showing them what is expected and having them do it will not know what is expected of them at the grocery store or church or a restaurant. They have to be able to go out and practice the kind of behavior you want them to show. Is is always easy? No way. Does it take a lot of effort? Of course. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Kids are kids and they are not always going to act the way they are supposed to (shocking I know.) I have definitely had my share of embarrassing moments when one (or more) of my children have done things that have surprised me (not in a good way either.) But, there are a few tricks that have helped me to teach my kids to use their best behavior when we are out of the house.
1. Especially for younger kids, remind them before you go into the grocery store, pharmacy, exactly what you expect from them. Something like, "Ok guys we are getting ready to go into the store. I need you to remember to stay beside mommy, talk with inside voices, keep your hands to yourselves."
2. Reinforce good behavior. I believe in positive reinforcement. My children know if they behave in the store, they will get a treat on the way out. If they don't they won't. It doesn't have to be expensive. What we usually do is buy a snack to share on the way home. For things that take longer like Dr. appointments we will stop at Sonic or McDonald's for their $1 ice cream. It goes without saying that if a treat is for good behavior and they don't behave and still get the treat you are defeating the purpose. Praise them with your words too! Kids love to know when they are doing a good job at something.
3. Plan outings when children (and moms) are not hungry or tired. Not always possible, but it makes a huge difference in how they (and you) will behave.
4. Keeping items on hand in case you have to wait is always a good idea. Small picture books, toys, notebooks, crayons, word searches (for older ones) and non messy snacks can make time pass much faster at a Dr. appointment.
5. Be as organized as possible when going grocery shopping to speed up the process. Have a list made up on the order that you shop and have coupons, price match items ready when you get to the check out.
6. Don't stop to chat. Often we run into people we know at the store. We smile, say hello, and continue shopping. It takes me about an hour to shop and extending that time standing and talking for 20 minutes will be asking for trouble.
7. We never go out to eat during busy times. My children LOVE to eat out. They usually are well behaved because they know if they are not we will not go back. When we have the opportunity to go out, we do not go to a restaurant that is very busy and has long wait times. We go early and avoid the rush.
8. Don't expect more than your child may be capable for their age. A two year old probably is not going to sit through a 3 hour movie.
Sometimes it would be easier and faster if I could leave the children behind. But, that just doesn't work for us. So, don't be surprised when you see 7 children trailing after me in Walmart :).